Teacher union leader: Stand up for Jackson Public Schools

Jackson residents were urged Friday to keep fighting for the Jackson Public Schools despite the “shadow” of a state takeover. The message came from Tyrone Hendrix, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Educators and a former city councilman Tyrone Hendrix in comments at Koinonia Coffee House about the consequences of a state takeover and what the community can do to support the district. The Commission on School Accreditation and State Board of Education both determined last week that an extreme emergency situation exists in the school district that jeopardized the safety and educational interests of the students. It’s now up to Gov. Phil Bryant to decide whether to declare a state of emergency so the state can take over the district. Hendrix thanked Bryant for taking time to deliberate over the decision, and reminded the audience that the community needs to continue to band together and support the district by signing a petition against a takeover or sending a letter to the governor.

Lawmakers talk school takeover process at budget hearings

Legislative leaders Thursday added their voice to questions about school district takeovers in the wake of an Mississippi Department of Education recommendation that the state take over Jackson Public Schools. House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, asked State Superintendent Carey Wright to clarify how the process of taking over a school district works. Wright and State Board of Education Chair Rosemary Aultman and State Superintendent Carey Wright addressed the joint legislative budget committee to review the Department of Education’s budget request for fiscal year 2019. Last week, both the Commission on School Accreditation and state board determined that an extreme emergency situation exists in the Jackson district that jeopardized the safety and educational interests of the students. A number of parents of Jackson Public Schools students have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the state takeover from proceeding.

JPS gives community power to rename schools named for Confederates

As questions swirl about whether parents had enough say in the fate of the Jackson Public School District, the school board took action Tuesday night in an effort to ensure parents have control over at least one thing in their district — renaming three schools currently named after Confederate leaders. The JPS Board of Trustees unanimously approved a motion to give the PTA and community the option to rename Jefferson Davis, George and Lee elementary schools before the 2018-19 school year. The schools are named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Brig. Gen. James Zachariah George, and president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis. During the 2016-17 school year (the most recent year for which enrollment figures have been finalized) JPS’ student population was 96 percent black.

JPS officials pledge to “respond appropriately” at audit meeting

Jackson Public Schools leaders say they will address the findings of a scathing audit report during a public meeting next week. Last week, the Mississippi Department of Education unveiled the results of an 18 month investigative audit which found the district in violation of 24 of 32 accreditation standards. District officials have the chance to address the findings at a Commission of School Accreditation meeting on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m.

Earlier Tuesday, the district sent out a release to announce the board would meet for a special work session “regarding the recent audit from the Mississippi Department of Education.” When the meeting convened at 4 p.m., the board voted to close the meeting less than ten minutes in to consider going into executive session.

JPS extends contract with company despite grant error

Despite a missed deadline that resulted in a lost opportunity for federal grants, the Jackson Public School District will continue to work with a contractor they blamed for the mistake. No additional JPS funds will be spent. JPS was one of several districts that failed to apply for school improvement grants (SIG) earlier this year. Interim Superintendent Freddrick Murray said the district intended to submit applications for three of its schools but missed the May 8 deadline. At the time, district spokesperson Sherwin Johnson told Mississippi Today that contractor Tri-K Group “made some late changes to the grant that led to the district missing the required deadline” but the district would continue working with them to submit future applications later this year.

Mayor Lumumba nominates first JPS board member

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has settled upon his first nomination for the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees and the City Council will confirm or deny his selection on Tuesday. The city council meeting agenda lists an item to confirm “the nomination of Letitia Simmons Johnson to the Jackson Public Schools Board.” Johnson is an attorney. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. The board urgently needs an additional member — at a July 20 meeting officials announced that member Richard Lind resigned.